Chess fans privy to exclusive showdown of man vs. machine

The battle between man and machine will not only be taking place on silver screens showing “The Matrix 3″ this week.

World chess champion Garry Kasparov will be engaging in a week-long struggle in the virtual world against the computer chess program Fritz X3D through next Tuesday. To mark the event, Yale chess fans attended a live broadcast of the match — the opening game of the Man-Machine World Chess Championship — in the GM room at the School of Management.

Sponsored by the Yale MBA Chess Society and Yale University Chess Team, the game broadcast was projected on a wide screen with live commentary fed through the Internet.

Yale Fox Fellow and three-time national Japanese chess champion Akira Watanabe provided an in-depth analysis of the moves and strategies of the broadcasted match, making references to past games and positions and taking questions from the audience. Channel 3 News also attended the game coverage to follow on-campus reactions to the match.

In moves made through voice recognition in front of a virtual chessboard floating on a computer screen, Kasparov played 37 moves before Fritz X3D took a pawn and sacrificed the exchange to end the battle in a draw.

Yale MBA Chess Society President Oliver Popov lauded Kasparov’s many contributions to chess, including surpassing Bobby Fischer’s best-ever rating of 2785. Kasparov is the first player in chess history to ever surpass the 2800 mark.

“Garry Kasparov has been considered the world’s number one player for more than 15 years,” Popov said.

Prior to the match, Kasparov said he was excited about testing his strategies against Fritz X3D, the most powerful 3D chess software to date and the one that has accumulated the most victories.

“I like to use a ‘Star Wars’ analogy,” Kasparov said in a press release. “In the first movie, the only way to destroy the Death Star was to find this one little spot, this weakness, and blow it up. With computers now we are also heading for that same type of exercise. You have to find this very little spot and hit it exactly there, not to the left or to the right.”

Popov said Kasparov was one of the first to challenge the world’s top computer chess programs to matches.

“It was Garry Kasparov that ventured into this world of man against machine,” Popov said. “He is a legend in chess history, but his ability to psychologically overpower his opponent is not relevant in this game.”

In the press release, Kasparov said chess computer programs are becoming more popular but that because of technological upgrades, they are increasingly more difficult for human players to defeat.

“In 10 or 20 years time, when our children look at a wooden chess set, they will then say, ‘Daddy, you played chess with this? How could you use these pieces, and having to write down the moves on score sheets and press a clock?'” Kasparov said.

But Yale College Chess Club President Scott Caplan ’06 said he rejected the idea that chess computer programs will eventually surpass their human competitors in talent and capacity for strategy.

“I still do not think computers will ever be better than humans because chess is a game about understanding ideas,” Caplan said. “And I still do not think computers can do anything more than calculate.”

ESPN2 will broadcast the three remaining games. The next match is scheduled for tomorrow at 1 p.m.

World chess champion Garry Kasparov tests the Fritz X3D technology at the ESPN Zone in Times Square. Kasparov is playing the chess program in a week-long tourney.
Courtesy OliverPopov
World chess champion Garry Kasparov tests the Fritz X3D technology at the ESPN Zone in Times Square. Kasparov is playing the chess program in a week-long tourney.

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